Making Mental Health a Priority

Please note that we are unable to provide mental health support to members of the public. Instead, we recommend that you contact The Samaritans who offer 24 hour, confidential emotional support. You can call them for free on 116 123. If you live in England and you require urgent mental health support, we advise you to contact an NHS helpline

Across the world, one of the most neglected health rights are mental health rights. At Health Poverty Action, we are working with health workers, activists, governments, and community members to stop health being denied. Fundamental to this is securing universally accessible and culturally appropriate mental health care and support.

While half the world’s population still lack access to essential health services, even fewer have access to mental health treatment, care, and support. The burden of this is felt heavily in low-and-middle-income countries (LMIC). People who experience mental health issues are disproportionately more likely to be from LMIC and disproportionately less likely to have access to mental health support.

Among those in the majority world* who do have access to mental health support, the services are often clinically driven and imposed by minority world health practitioners, political decision-makers, and NGOs.

These mental health support practices often fail to meet peoples’ needs. When evaluating a person, they do not try to understand the whole social context. Support focuses on the individual and internal analysis, with an emphasis on medicating patients. This is not appropriate if the cause of mental health issues are external factors, such as marginalisation or oppression. We need a decolonised approach to mental healthcare, where community members lead on mental health provision that works for them.

Public spending on mental health services in LMIC is oftentimes very low and prioritises clinical approaches. Over 80% of already small budgets go towards running inpatient psychiatric institutions rather than being distributed to services that are more affordable and closer to the community. Prioritising institutional healthcare, over community-led and inclusive approaches.

The lack of money for these governments to spend on mental health services is fuelled in part by an unjust economic system. When governments in the minority world enable global tax dodging by big corporations, countries miss out on vast sums in tax which could be spent on public services – like quality mental healthcare. Mental health is rarely covered in LMICs public services. As a result, people are oftentimes forced to pay entirely out-of-pocket for mental health care. Families face being forced into poverty in order to receive support. Creating a divide between those who can afford support, and those who cannot. Mental health support is a right, not a privilege. Care and treatment must be universally accessible.

What are we doing?

  • We are bringing together international actors, governments, and NGOs to build a global network advocating to decolonise mental health practices.
  • We are speaking out on the root causes of poverty and inequality, which unjustly extracts wealth and inhibits governments from supporting their public sector. We know that the way our world is structured undermines mental health worldwide.
  • We are using our ability, as a charity which also implements healthcare projects, to create projects which focus on; culturally appropriate health services; advocacy initiatives that will ensure the significance of mental health and psychosocial services are recognized, and that rights of people with lived experiences are an integral part of the public health systems, guaranteed under relevant policies, laws and programs.

The fundamental value of good mental health, and the considerable burden associated with mental disorders means that the significance of addressing the known determinants of mental health, as well as the needs of those already affected by mental disorders and disabilities, is a critical development priority. Together, we can make good mental health a reality worldwide.


*we use the terms “minority world” and “majority world” in favour of other popular terms such as “global north” and “global south” or “developed” and “developing.” These latter terms can be misleading and disguise or promote colonial narratives. Indeed, “global north” / “global south” is geographically inaccurate (e.g., there are countries in the south of the global which are not part of this group). Meanwhile “developed” / “developing” masks the fact that countries have been systematically exploited and their “development” entirely prevented. “Minority world” and “majority world” are considered more neutral concepts, describing global populations (more people are in these countries – they are the majority).